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1 Timothy Chapter 4

(Dietary Laws)


       There are many passages in scripture commonly quoted off point and out of context to demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished.  This simply is not true.  1 Timothy Chapter 4 is one such passage, but a proper understanding will demonstrate that 1 Timothy 4 supports the following of God's law. 

          It is important to remember that the Apostle Paul has an understanding of biblical law far greater than we do.  As a result, Peter warns us that some of his writings are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16).  Those who have a hard time understanding Paul's writing are, "unlearned and unstable" (2 Pet. 3:16).  This assumes Paul is, "learned and stable."  But what was Paul learned and stable in?  Here is a quick resume of the Apostle Paul; he was "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:5-6), and educated at the, "feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3).  The Apostle Paul was well educated in the Mosaic law.  He would be what we would call today a prosecuting attorney for he was sent out by the High Priest to prosecute the church (Acts 9:1-2).  However, we have a hard time understanding his writings because we are "unlearned and unstable" in the Mosaic law.  Those who say Paul advocated the abolishment of the Mosaic law are, "unlearned and unstable" in that law.  We need to keep this in mind as we study Paul's writings and assume Paul was not advocating the abolishment of a law he himself followed.  If you have not read 1 Timothy chapter four please do so before you continue.
          Paul starts chapter four by stating, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1).  We learn from the start where these troublesome doctrines come from, they come from, "seducing spirits and ... devils."  These that, "depart from the faith" ... "speak ... lies in hypocrisy" because their "conscience [is] seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim. 4:2).  The doctrines being taught by these teachers of the, "latter times" are not from God, but from Satan himself.  What are they teaching?  They are "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats" (1 Tim. 4:3).  This is the false doctrine that Paul is warning about.  They will forbid people to marry, like many religions forbid priests to marry, and they command to abstain from meats (vegetarianism).  Both of these are prevalent in society today.  Perhaps we should take Paul's warning as is and keep ourselves from these doctrines.
          This leads us to verse four, which is the passage quoted often to say that God has abolished his dietary laws.  But first we need to look at the last part of verse three to understand what is being said in verse four.  Here is verse three in it's entirety; "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth" (1 Tim. 4:3).  These false teachers in the "latter times" are teaching people to "abstain from meats."  The question is, which "meats" are they teaching people to abstain from?  The "meats" in question are those "which God hath created to be received."  The answer to this whole controversy is right here, for, the "meats ... which God hath created to be received" are found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  Paul is warning that in the "latter times" men will teach vegetarianism, which is not eating any meat, including the meat "God ... created to be received [eaten]."
          With this in mind, lets read verse four, "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (1 Tim. 4:4).  Many use this verse to say that God now allows "every creature" to be eaten, but in context, Paul is clearly speaking only of those meats that "God hath created to be received."  God clearly did not create "swine" to be received and He expressly said so in Lev. 11:7 and Deut. 14:8.  In fact, the next verse helps clarify.  How do we know which "meats ... God hath created to be received?"  It is, "sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:5).  Sanctified means to set apart.  God sanctified (set apart) which meat we can eat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  Through careful prayer and study we can know exactly which meats are healthy to eat and which meats we are to avoid.  However, some people "wrest" these scriptures to "their own destruction" to command something that God clearly did not command (2 Pet. 3:16).
          The topic Paul is discussing throughout these verses is clearly vegetarianism.  People in the "latter times" will forbid people to eat any meat, including meat God said we could eat.  This is a doctrine that comes from Satan for it restricts us of our liberty in the Messiah and adds to God's law.  We need to remember, God is always right.  When we see a verse that seems to contradict another verse, we should always error on the side of caution and assume we are in error and not God.  With enough study and prayer, in time we might correctly understand how the two verses fit together.  We need to remember that God's law is forever (Deut. 12:28), including His dietary laws.  All His laws are for our benefit and the dietary laws are for our health benefit.  It is interesting to note, that these false teachers of the "latter times" use this very passage to teach exactly what Paul himself was warning about.  1 Timothy 4:1-5 clearly teaches the following of God's dietary laws, not the abolishment of them.  However, today many preachers use this passage to teach that God has abolished His dietary laws, and that false teaching is a "doctrine of devils" from "seducing spirits."  For more on God's dietary laws please read my article "Clean and Unclean Meat."

By Steve Siefken

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV